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Sandy Reay


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 Learn About Sandy Reay Follow The Sinister Umbrella Share Your Stories You Are the Road, a Memoir 



A Car and Snow Adventure

Damn the Dream

Living the Dream

An excerpt from McCavity A Real-life Mystery Cat

The Car that Saved My Life

Times I Didn't Die: Pets #1

Times I Didn't Die: Pets #2

Times I Didn't Die: Cars #1

Times I Didn't Die: Cars #2


Do you have stories about close calls?
Please contact Sandy


Times I Didn't Die

Micro-memoirs from newsletters
except where noted

by Sandy Reay

I didn't plan to write micro-memoirs using themes. I wrote about memories that popped into my head, sometimes using photos for inspiration. I had a passion for odd foreign cars, and owned several. I also had a lot of pets. It made sense that pets and cars would feature prominently in my micro-memoirs.

It didn't occur to me that so many of them included times I almost died, even though I wrote The Car that Saved My Life as my first micro-memoir. And Damn the Dream is about dying in a dream, based on a true story.

Thanks to Dolora Reay for telling me to write about times I didn't die in my monthly newsletters. I now have a theme and a lot of microflash stories to tell.


Sandy in deep snow near the yellow '72 Superbeetle

This story was featured in the June 2023 Newsletter.

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Have you ever had an adventure in a
blizzard or hurricane?
Please contact Sandy.


A Car and Snow Adventure

My husband and I drove from Denver to Chicago in our new '72 Super Beetle in April. We got caught in a blizzard. Visibility: zero. Speed: barely above zero. I read the map to tell him how to turn the wheel (ex. 2 o'clock) in how many 10ths of a mile. We could tell semis were passing us by the noise. A gust of wind slid us sideways off the road. We heard sounds like explosions ahead of us.

In a break in the wind, we saw a huge pileup of cars and trucks and the bottom of the exit ramp. We crept a few feet on the shoulder to the ramp and up as far as we could. A car facing the wrong way blocked our access to a crossroad in a rural area outside a city. We stayed in the car until we spotted a gas station in another break in the wind. I learned how early settlers could get lost walking from the
house to the barn.

We locked the car and held hands to keep from losing each other while we trudged through the deep snow and swirling bitter wind. The station had three heated bays for repair work. We spent the night sitting on tires, eating vending machine food, and drinking sample wines that a salesman paid a local snowmobiler to "rescue" from his damaged car along with the stranded people they were rescuing.

Some truckers went out with the snowmobile club and brought in crates of oranges and apples for us. Later, the National Guard brought personnel carriers and took most of the people to an auditorium where they would have beds and hot food. We opted to stay in the garage—we got there early so we had tires. And wine. And no idea when they'd bring us back the next day. Our car wasn't damaged in the pileup. We could get on the road early.

In the morning under a sunny sky, we reached our car. The other car was gone, but ours wouldn't start: the engine compartment was packed with snow. The wind even blew snow in through the seal around the back window. When we finally got the car started and the windows scraped and defrosted, we still couldn't drive away. The tires froze to the road.

We'd befriended a college boy trying to get back to school at the end of Spring break. He pushed the car to help break it free and helped dig us out when we got stuck on the surface roads. Every underpass on the highway was clogged with incoming cars. To avoid the massive pile-ups under the bridges, we drove down the up ramps on the wrong side of the road and up the down ramps, crossing the grass separating the east- and west-bound lanes at the bottom and crossing on the bridges at the top.

The only mishap was mine. My boots were in the trunk of the car. My husband pulled over to the side of the road to let me out. Why? Habit for a highway-engineer. My first step out of the car was a long one, down the embankment toward the ramp we'd just driven up. I stopped by hitting a rock with my ankle and climbed up. My husband and the hitchhiker linked hands to reach me and helped pull me up the slick almost-vertical last few feet.

I settled in the back seat with snow boots and a swelling ankle. The hitchhiker got promoted to the front passenger seat. We dropped him off in Iowa and headed to my husband's family near Chicago. When we'd pushed the car to free the tires, the layer of frozen rubber had peeled off the tire and stayed on the road. The tires made thumping noises and small bumps for the rest of the trip.


Living the Dream

This story was featured in the February 2023 Newsletter.

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Did you ever get to make a dream come true and find out it wasn't what you expected?
Please contact Sandy.


If you like this true story, you might want to check out Sandy's poem Coming to Colorado


This story, like others, is true. Memories formed the story. A recent writing class included lists as a way of writing non-fiction. That technique shaped the final* version of the story, which includes subtext.

* Final version: Is anything we write ever "final?"


Do you have a story that would work in the form of a list?
Would you like to share it?
Please contact Sandy.


Living the Dream

I worked for a company that was downsizing. They offered a year’s salary to anyone willing to quit. A friend had the opportunity to buy back her horse ranch in the mountains from her ex-husband. She never had to put the worm on the hook. I wriggled onto the bank and climbed the line.

Too late, I heard the old joke: How do you get a million dollars ranching? Start with five million.

My childhood dream of living on a horse ranch in the mountains didn’t last. But I learned a lot.

  1. Horse ranching in the mountains bears no resemblance whatsoever to anything you've ever seen on TV or in the movies.
  2. Pine trees do not automatically grow with branches high enough to ride under. You learn to duck. With luck, you only have to get hit in the head once.
  3. Don’t ride horses into a bog. Bogs like to hide in low areas with tall grass and ambush clueless riders.
  4. If a horse kicks you on your ribs above your belt line, it will crack a couple of ribs. You may not realize it if you are flying through the air at the time.
  5. Landing on your back in a bog is a lot like landing on Grandma’s feather bed, except for the horses bucking around you.
  6. If you’re lying on your back with a couple of cracked ribs, there are three things you can NOT do: you cannot breathe, you cannot call for help, and you cannot sit up. You can, however, roll onto your stomach to get up, if you are agile and sufficiently motivated.
  7. Not being able to breathe while lying on your back under four bucking horses is sufficient motivation.
  8. The second-worst thing you can do with two cracked ribs: walking your horse back to the barn in no-longer-new cowboy boots. The worst thing: riding your horse back to the barn. Whoever said, “If you get thrown, get right back on the horse,” has never been thrown in a bog. Or tried to get back in the saddle with mud-slick clothes and two cracked ribs.
  9. A good friend is one who will help you get on and off your horse even if you are covered in mud.
  10. A really good friend is one who will clean the mud off your saddle while you’re getting your ribs taped.

McCavity the Mystery Cat under the bed
sneaking out from his safe place

Read more about
McCavity, A Real-life Mystery Cat



McCavity, A Real-life Mystery Cat, an excerpt

My fiance helped me move out of my apartment. We loaded up both cars and hauled everything I owned to his apartment. After dinner, we went back for McCavity and one last check of the apartment. A helicopter was circling the area, and I heard some popping noises. A police officer said, "This area is closed off."

I couldn't leave my cat alone in the apartment; he needed to be fed. I needed to take my last few belongings and turn in my key. I parked a few blocks away, because several streets were blocked off, and we cut through spaces between buildings and down alleys to reach the back of my building. I found a few things I'd missed, which I stuffed in my purse, and picked up McCavity. My fiance grabbed the litter box and gave the key to my landlord. We walked up the street toward the police officer who had turned us away.

He pointed down the street. “What are you doing out here! There's a sniper on the top of that building. You could have been killed.”

I worried more about losing my grip on McCavity.


photograph of a small crabapple tree growing out of the stump of a dead cherry tree

This story was featured in the November 2022 Newsletter.

If you want a micro-memoir delivered to your email once a month,
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Have you ever had an unexplainable experience with an inanimate object?
Please contact Sandy.


The Car that Saved My Life

I bought this Ford Fiesta from a friend in August, 1982. It was a safe, economical, and reliable car for the entire time I owned it, with one exception. One winter night, I drove to that friend' house for dinner. When I left to go home, the car wouldn't start. We popped the hood, and saw no reason for the problem. I tried starting it again. No luck. We went into the house to get out of the cold, talked about potential causes (none likely, except—maybe—the cold) and symptoms I might have missed (none).

"I'll give it one more try." The car started. I drove home via the divided highway that ran from Boulder to northwest Denver. When I topped the hill and looked toward Broomfield, I saw a flash of light and heard a loud explosion. By the time I reached Broomfield, the police had the southbound lanes closed and rerouted us onto surface streets with no explanation.

It took longer to get home. I found a message on my answering machine from my friend. "Are you okay? Call me as soon as you get this." I did.

He told me about the explosion: two trains hit head-on under the bridges that carried the highway across the railroad tracks. Both bridges burned. We did the math. If my car had started when I wanted to leave, I would have been on the eastbound bridge when the trains collided.

I drove that car everywhere for several more years. It never failed to start again.


This story was featured in the October 2023 Newsletter.

If you want a micro-memoir delivered to your email once a month,
sign up for eMail.

Have you had a close call driving?
Please contact Sandy.


Times I Didn't Die: Cars #1

My husband and I sold our TR-3 and bought a Lotus 7A. It was a race car built from a kit: aluminum tubes and panels. Fenders, to make it street legal, were aluminum, bolted on. Leather-like window panels with plexiglass to see through could be mounted on the doors. A removable roof over
aluminum tubes could be snapped on in bad weather. It was low to the ground: a fair-weather car, suitable for sunny days and racing.

Our Lotus was factory built in England, bright yellow, and right hand drive. Someone imported it to the US and brought it to Denver. The doors opened, but it was easier to step over them into the car, and slide down to low cushions set on the floor. Our straight legs fit into narrow spaces along the drive shaft.

One day, my husband drove us for a ride. I sat in the passenger seat on the left. On a major street near our house, a long-nose semi pulled up behind us. The light was long. The semi driver inched forward. The light didn't change. The truck inched forward. Again.

Wide-eyed, my husband turned toward me. “The driver forgot we're here. Stand up.”

I popped my seat belt, whirled, and shot up in front of the driver, waving my arms and bouncing up and down on the seat.

His eyes like white golf balls popped out of his pale face. He slammed on the brakes and mouthed, “I'm sorry.”

My husband said, “Good job. Now, sit down. The light's green.”




This story was featured in the October 2023 Newsletter.

If you want a micro-memoir delivered to your email once a month,
sign up for eMail.

Have you had a close call racing a car?
Please contact Sandy.


Times I Didn't Die: Cars #2

I had a 1976 TR-7 and raced it one day at Englewood Speedway. One of the sports car clubs set up an autocross (gymkhana) there, and we got to race one car at a time on the banked oval and figure-8, on a course marked with pylons. I was used to pylon-marked courses on unused runways and parking lots.

I watched the bigger cars going around the banked turns with their wheels at an odd angle. My husband explained about "opposite lock" (turning the opposite direction from the curve which causes the car to slide) and "drifting" (a theoretically-controlled slide in the direction you want to go). “You do the entire curve under full-power, and when you come out of the curve, you straighten the wheel, still under full power.” It's the fastest way to drive through a banked corner.

I understood the theory and knew my car. I tried it. Opposite lock into a drift was easy. And a rush.

Things I didn't think about:
1. If the sideways tires scrub off too much speed, the front-wheels stop sliding.
2. My car was not powerful enough to keep this from happening.
3. Once the slide stops, the front tires grip the pavement, and the car makes an unexpected 90-degree turn. Into the wall.
4. I didn't know this would happen until it was too late.
5. The driver gets slammed sideways.
6. Lucky drivers get the car under control before they hit anything.

Even in a helmet, my head slammed into the side of the roof of my car. I heard bells. I saw spots.

And, I got lucky.

Afterward, someone said my husband stood on the other side of that wall and shouted, "She's gonna hit the wall," before he followed the others who ran to safety. A friend told me that I missed the concrete chute wall (the entrance onto the oval track) by about an inch. I got the car back under control in the extra space the chute provided.

A muscle-car driver offered to let me try it again in his car.

“No, thanks. I think I learned my lesson.” Sometimes I wondered what driving a car like that would have felt like.


Savoir Faire, 35-pound mixed breed dog

This story was featured in the September 2023 Newsletter.

If you want a micro-memoir delivered to your email once a month, sign up for eMail.

Have you had a dog save you?
Please contact Sandy.


Times I Didn't Die: Pets #1

My husband and I got a puppy from our neighbor, the runt of her litter. Our eighteen pound tuxedo cat, McCavity the Mystery Cat, raised her. We named her when she fell
off a step and landed on her head in her water dish. We said, “Savoir Faire.” Sarcasm. McCavity rescued a kitten who could stretch out on the palm of my hand.

Faire was half English Setter. Her father was a German Shepherd Husky mix. Faire looked more like her mother and had a gentle mouth. She weighed thirty-five pounds and played fetch the kitty.

My husband and I moved to be closer to his job in Denver. I was alone during the day. Someone knocked on the door. I opened it to find a strange man holding the storm door open, one foot on the step, ready to launch himself into my house. I tried to close the door, but he held it open.

Faire dashed around me and growled. Her head was the height of his knee. But she growled like she meant it, channeling her father.

My would-be intruder backed up and slammed the storm door shut, yelling something. I closed and locked the door. Faire got treats

Read and see more about Savoir Faire in McCavity, A Real-life Mystery Cat


Walter Rosebud, Colombian Rainbow Boa Constrictor

This story was featured in the September 2023 Newsletter.

If you want a micro-memoir delivered to your email once a month,
sign up for eMail.

Have you had an unusual pet?
Please contact Sandy.


Times I Didn't Die: Pets #2

For Valentines Day, my husband bought me a baby Colombian Rainbow Boa Constrictor. Once a month, we put a mouse in his terrarium, and most of the time, he caught it. One month, he missed so many times, the mouse raced around, sat up in a
corner, shivered, and fell over. I think it died of a heart attack.

Years later, the snake reached his full length, about 5-6'. Other than feeding and shedding, he was not an active pet. We called him Walter, after an Old English Sheepdog in an episode of Bonanza, in which the dog laid on his side and never moved.

When we got divorced, Faire moved to a house with my ex-husband. Walter, McCavity, and I moved into a townhouse. As a joke, someone gave me a “Beware of Snake” sign, which I put in the front window. A friend asked how I would defend myself if someone broke in.

“I'd grab McCavity and throw him at the intruder: I don't cut his nails, and he's eighteen pounds of muscle. He'd shred an intruder.”

I got my hair permed. Walter loved to crawl around on my head, and I let him out of his cage. He'd hook the tip of his tail under my jaw and explore my curls.

One day, someone knocked on the door. Again, I opened it to find a man poised to enter my house: his foot on the step. He pushed the door farther open. “You don't really have
a snake, do you?” He laughed.

“Yes, I do.”

Walter raised his head and flicked his tongue. A warm body that's not mine could be food. Until he bit it, he didn't know how big it was. His head shot toward the intruder's nose.

That man recoiled, stumbled off the step, and grabbed the doorknob to keep his balance. The door slammed shut, and he ran away.